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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Thinking Blocks - Model Your Math Problems

Thinking Blocks is a nice site for elementary and middle school mathematics teachers. Thinking Blocks provides interactive templates in which students use brightly colored blocks to model and solve problems. As students work through the problems they are provided with feedback as to whether or not they are using the correct sequence to solve each problem. There are templates and problems for addition, multiplication, fractions, and ratios. You can also develop your own problems using the modeling tool.

Applications for Education
I learned about Thinking Blocks from James Hollis at Teachers Love SMARTBoards. James suggested that Thinking Blocks could be good site for helping students see how algebraic reasoning works. And, of course, if James is writing about it, it must be well suited to use on interactive whiteboards.

5 Free and Simple Timers for Teachers

In the school at which I teach we have eighty minute class periods. Eighty minutes is a long time for anyone, let alone teenagers, to stay in one room and on task. Therefore, I break up the time with varied activities and "break times" during the eighty minutes. One tool that can help to get the students and me to not stretch the "break times" is to use a countdown timer.

Online Stopwatch is a free website that gives you the choice of a stopwatch function or a countdown function. You can set the countdown timer for any length of time and an alarm sounds when time is up.

Online Egg Timer is a simple website offering three countdown timers on one screen. You can set just one timer or run all three at the same time with different settings. No registration is required in order to use Online Egg Timer. Just go to the site, set the countdown timer(s) using the up and down arrows, then click "start timers."

Timer Tab is a free application offered through the Chrome Web Store and as a stand-alone website at timer-tab.com. As a Chrome app Timer Tab can be used online or offline. The website version of Timer Tab can only be used online. Both versions of Timer Tab offer a count-down timer, an alarm clock, and a stopwatch. For the count-down timer and the alarm clock you can select a video to play when time expires or when you've reached your specified alarm time. You do this by pasting the url of a YouTube video into the "alarm" field below the timer. Also in both versions of Timer Tab you can customize the background by specifying an image url.

Timerrr.com offers two versions of their free countdown service. The regular Timerrr displays a dial like my grandmother used to have on top of her stove. The "egg timer" version displays an egg timer as the countdown device. Both can be used to set a countdown of up to sixty minutes.

12 Useful YouTube Accessories for Teachers and Students

If you can access it in your school, YouTube has a ton of useful educational content. Here are ten tools that can make using YouTube in your classroom a better experience for everyone.

Removing Related Content and Banner Advertisements.
A Cleaner YouTube is a browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. Once installed A Cleaner YouTube allows you to display YouTube videos without any of the "related videos," comments, or display advertising. There are other tools that do the same thing, but what makes A Cleaner YouTube different is that not only can you display videos without the related materials, but you can also search YouTube without viewing any of the "related videos," comments, suggested videos, or advertisements.

View Pure is a simple little tool that strips way all of the distractions of related videos, comments, and promoted videos. To use View Pure just copy the link of a video into the "purifier," click purify, and your video will be displayed on a blank white background. You can also install the View Pure bookmarklet to accomplish the same goal.

SafeShare.tv makes it possible to view YouTube videos without displaying the related videos and associated comments. To use SafeShare.tv simply copy the url of a YouTube video and paste it into SafeShare.tv. SafeShare also offers browser bookmarklet that eliminates the need to copy and paste links.

Quietube is a handy little browser extension that removes all the clutter from YouTube allowing you to view only your selected video. Quietube removes all advertising, sidebar content, comments, and ratings. Installing Quietube requires nothing more than dragging the Quietube button to your toolbard. Then anytime that you're on YouTube click the Quietube button to remove all of the clutter and just watch your selected video. Quietube works for Viddler and Vimeo videos too.

Tools for Cutting and Remixing YouTube Videos
Disclaimer: Some of these tools might be interpreted as a violation of YouTube's terms of service. I'm not a lawyer so I'll let you interpret the T.O.S. for yourself and determine if you should use these tools in your school.

TubeChop gives you the ability to clip a section from any YouTube video and share it. This could be useful if there is a section of long YouTube video that you want to share with your students. One such instance could be if you want to show students studying public speaking a section of commencement address as a model.

Splicd is a service that lets users select and share a segment of a YouTube video. Splicd is a simple and easy service to use. To use Splicd all you have to do is select a video from YouTube, copy the video's url into Splicd, then enter the start and end times of the video segment you wish to watch. This service will be particularly useful for those times that you want to share only a part of a long video. Click here to see Splicd in action.

If you made mix tapes in the 80's, the concept of Drag On Tape will be familiar to you. Drag On Tape makes it easy to string together a series of YouTube videos and or sections of YouTube videos. Create your mix tape of videos just launch the Drag On Tape editor, enter a search term for videos, then drag videos on to the Drag On Tape timeline. You enter searches and drag videos as many times as you like. To trim video timings and string videos together just match them up on the timeline editor. Drag On Tape allows you to collaborate with others on a mix.

SnipSnip.it is a new service that allows you to easily clip a section from a YouTube video and share that section with others. To use SnipSnip.it  just grab the link to a YouTube video, paste it into SnipSnip.it, and then enter the start and end times for the section of video you want to share. After you've completed those steps SnipSnip.it will generate a link and an embed code that will play just the section of video you selected. This tool is no longer online.

If you've ever shown a YouTube video in your classroom and wanted to show just a portion of it for students to discuss, you know the inconvenience of trying to skip to the right starting point. Embed Plus addresses that problem and others. Embed Plus allows you to start a video at any point you specify. You can also use Embed Plus to skip scenes in a video, play it in slow motion, zoom into an area of a video, and annotate a video. The annotation feature of Embed Plus is a nice complement to the real-time reactions feature offered by Embed Plus. Real-time reactions pulls in Twitter and YouTube comments about your chosen video. The annotation feature lets you comment on specific parts of a video. Your annotations can include links that you insert.

Watch2gether is a neat site through which you can watch YouTube videos and host text chats about them at the same time. It is really quite easy to use Watch2gether. To get started enter a nickname for yourself (it could be your real first name) then search for a video or enter the url of a video that you have previously bookmarked. When you have found the video you want a chat column will be present on the right side of your browser. You can invite others to chat with you by sending them the url assigned to your chat. Together you can watch a video and discuss it.

Editing Tools Within YouTube
YouTube has a couple of handy editing tools built into it. You do have to have an account to use these tools.


You can also use the annotation features in YouTube to create "choose your own adventure" videos. The directions for doing that can be found here.

Free Electoral College Poster from C-SPAN

C-SPAN Classroom is a great place for social studies teachers to find all kinds of resources for lessons on U.S. History and U.S. Government. I've previously written about using C-SPAN Classroom's video library in your lessons.

One of the quirkier aspects of U.S. Government is the Electoral College. Currently, C-SPAN Classroom is giving away posters about the Electoral College. The Electoral College Map poster contains information about the number of electors in each state, important dates leading up to the 2012 Presidential Election, and historic election events. To get the poster you do have to have a mailing address in the U.S. and register to be a member of C-SPAN Classroom (registration is free).

Applications for Education
The Electoral College Map poster isn't going to magically make your students understand how the Electoral College works, but it might be a nice accessory to add to your history or civics classroom. If you are teaching lessons on the Electoral College, you should take a look at Common Craft's Electing a US President in Plain English.

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